REVIEW: Van Halen – “Can’t Get This Stuff No More” / “Me Wise Magic” (1996)

VAN HALEN (Not Van Hagar!) Coda: Can’t Get This Stuff No More

Welcome to the final installment in my latest series of reviews at mikeladano.com:  an in-depth look at all the classic VAN HALEN albums, with David Lee Roth.  If you missed anything, don’t fret: the complete list is right below.  Dig in!

Part 1: The Early Years (Zero – 1977) VH_0003
Part 2:
On Fire (Van Halen – 1978)
Part 3: Somebody Get Me A Doctor (Van Halen II – 1979)
Part 4: Everybody Wants Some!! (Women and Children First – 1980)
Part 5: Push Comes to Shove (Fair Warning – 1981)
Part 6: Intruder (Diver Down – 1982)
Part 7: House of Pain (1984 – 1984)
Coda: Can’t Get This Stuff No More (Best Of Volume I – 1996)

VAN HALEN – “Can’t Get This Stuff No More” / “Me Wise Magic” (1996 Warner promo singles)

Van Halen had been doing just fine, thank-you-very-much, with Sammy Hagar for a decade.  There had always been rumors that they were on the verge of a split with Hagar.  I remember hearing those rumors on MuchMusic in 1987, around the time Sammy had released his self-titled solo album.  The rumors returned when Sammy released his Unboxed compilation in 1994.  When the split did finally occur in 1996, it was explosive.  Especially when Van Halen announced that they had resumed work with David Lee Roth, and two brand new songs featuring his voice would be released on the forthcoming Best Of Volume I album.

A somewhat embarrassing MTV Awards appearance by the reunited Van Halen stoked the fire. They presented an award to a stunned looking Beck, who thanked them in his speech. Dave, always the ham, made the most of the opportunity to address the crowd. Edward looks uncomfortable, keeping his distance and trying keep the subject on the “Best Male Video” award.

As predicted, the reunion was strictly temporary.  A tense studio situation (with new producer Glen Ballard) produced two cuts.  The first, “Can’t This Stuff No More”, was considerably darker than most of the Van Hagar tunes the band has been putting out.  You can hear some quiet organ overdubs, but it is otherwise void of keyboards.  Roth uses his lower voice, as he had on his previous solo album Your Filthy Little Mouth.  Eddie’s guitar sounds a bit like his work on 1984, but with a much fatter tone.  As a single, “Can’t Get This Stuff No More” is a bit of a disappointment.  If it had accompanied a whole album of new material, it would have made an excellent album cut.

“Me Wise Magic” is the one with the catchy chorus.  It too has a dark tone to it, perhaps reflective of the mood in the Van Halen camp.  Roth again uses his low voice, until the chorus when he lets those patented Dave shrieks loose.  They’re older, more ragged and tamed, but it’s that same Diamond Dave “charasma!” that we had missed for so long.  The chorus isn’t bad, but the song doesn’t boast one of those classic guitar riffs that albums such as Women and Children First were loaded with.  There’s no mistaking the player as Edward, especially come solo time, but it is undeniable that these two “new” songs lack a certain magical aura.   Both would have made excellent album songs, surrounded by others of different tempos and types.  As “new” compositions on a greatest hits collection of questionable intent…

3.5/5 stars

Whether you are traveller or tourist, this is the end of the ride; the series stops here.  We know what happened next:  Van Halen 3, inactivity, followed by years of confounding turbulence.  Finally, the album A Different Kind of Truth (2012), and redemption.

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37 comments

  1. Still never heard either of these. I suppose the darker style fits in with the era but it’s a shame they didn’t manage to keep things together.

    What was the real story with that MTV thing? Did Dave basically jump the gun reunion-wise? Why were they recording songs with him then? What did they think was going to happen? I don’t know… VH always seemed like they could do with better management or something.

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    1. Ray Danniels (Rush) was managing them at the time.

      They were only supposed to present the Best Male Video. DLR took it upon himself (rightly so) to address the fact that they had not been on stage together in over a decade.

      VH were just hiring him on to do two new songs. DLR wanted a tour…others in the camp wanted a tour…but Eddie had already been talking to Cherone.

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      1. Interesting. Seems like a daft call to me and a bit disrespectful to Dave. He’s not the sort of guy you just hire to do a couple of songs!? They must have known everyone would have been expecting more, especially when they make a public appearance like that. I could see the point if they were just recording in secret to see if it would work out. I think Sammy wasn’t a fan of Ray as a manager, if I remember right from his book?

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        1. Correct. Prior to that, they were managed by Sammy’s manager Ed Lefler. Ed passed away and they hired Danniels.

          Guess who else Danniels managed?

          King’s X…and…

          Extreme.

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        2. Ah-HA!! Well, that was good of him steering Cherone their way. That really worked out for them…

          Actually Extreme are playing near here tomorrow. Doing the full Pornograffiti album by the looks of it.

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        3. It happened last week. The video has been taken down. Pat Badget was in the wrong key. Gary asks him to take it down half a step mid-song. Shortly thereafter Nuno walks off stage…followed by Badger…leaving Gary and Kevin up there alone.

          Get the Funk Out sounds very lame with just drums. Gary says, “Kick it Kevin, do something Kevin,” before they all leave the stage.

          It was WEIRD.

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        4. You have to go, and you have to do that.

          A week later, Gary and Nuno showed up at a karaoke bar together and sang a song as if to put on a public show of, “We’re OK, we’re still together.”

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        5. Buddy of mine despises Danniels. He wound up in the middle of a huge management tug-of-war between Bernie Finkelstein, Tom Cochrane (who he was playing with), Danniels, and Rush. It led to Danniels taking Rush and forming SRO, and to quote Dave “I gave it 6 months with THAT idiot” He was really surprised and disappointed it didn’t tank. Instead Finkelstein and Cochrane split, and Dave got the raw end of the stick.

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    1. I didn’t cringe…I jumped for joy! I taped it, and re-watched it 5 or 6 times in one night. I was so excited. Original VH would surely give rock a kick in its pants, right? LOL

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  2. My local radio station played Me Wise Magic every hour on the hour the day it was released and I listened to it several times. There was so much hunger for new material with DLR I’m not sure a lot of fans cared if it wasn’t quite up to classic status. I still like both of these songs and as you mentioned, compared to what was coming (Van Halen 3) they were the best songs ever!

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    1. I think personally VH3 is a good Cherone album. Not a good VH album. But it is what it is…

      I agree, nobody cared if these two songs were not up to classic status. We all hoped more was coming.

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    1. Yes, agreed. very cool take on what is some pretty oftentimes amazing music. I lived II, FW and 1984 when I was in high school. Love those albums to this day.

      Never heard either of these two songs before you posted them Mike, can’t say I feel I’ve missed too much. I too was kind of embarased when the MTV thing happened. I thought it doesn’t matter what they do, they just seemed weird up there together. Glad they eventually got it together. When it works there is a magic there.

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  3. Well there goes my ” I hate all these bands compilation releases ” stance when I hear the news of the 2 new tracks attached to VH greatest hits package.
    If my memory is correct(?) I believe VH and Maidens X Factor were released the same day but it was the Halens two new tracks that I dived into first before I even unwrapped the Dickinson less Maiden.
    Can’t Get This Stuff No More for me considering there previous 6 albums of working together Roth/Halen sounds like a leftover that wouldn’t have made any of the 6 albums.
    Now for me Me Wise Magic is the deal! Loved the track than love the track now. It just oozes a future at the time I thought would have been bright but unfortunately dimmed after the Mtv fiasco!
    Sumthin about it Mike just like the craziness of the playing,Dave sounding like a old drunk Uncle at the Xmas table rambling….
    Yeah I dig it!

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      1. Now see, I remembered the creepy baby face from that video…

        Can I blame the lack of coffee? Or that I’m up at some ungodly hour so I can register my kids in the next round of swimming lessons at the Y and am therefore distracted?

        Probably not. ;)

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Gawd…how can you even give this steaming pile more than 1 star? “Me Wise Magic” sounded like Roth’s vocals dubbed over a Van Hagar song!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t think Me Wise Magic was that bad. The lower tones of Dave’s voice gave it a Billy Gibbons feel, great guitar work, and sounded a little heavier than most Van Hagar. I think David’s voice was starting to go already at this point, but he could still wail when needed. My guess is that it took a long time to lay down the right track due to Dave’s voice, and Eddie knew that it was not in the cards for a full album. Plus he didn’t want to go on tour if Dave couldn’t hit the high notes for a sustained touring schedule. Perhaps that is part of the reason why we only got 2 new DLR led VH songs. But, I could be completely wrong.

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      1. Good call on the Billy Gibbons feel. That hadn’t occurred to me before.

        From what I’ve read in DLR’s book, a reunion album was really never going to happen. Getting Roth to do two songs was really the most Eddie seemed to be interested in. He already had his eyes on Gary Cherone and was auditioning him behind Dave’s back.

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  5. Can’t get this stuff no more, is a great track awesome different cool guitar work reminds me of some the guitar in the tune Secrets off Diver Down, or the chorus clean style guitar tones on Fair Warning plus considering the lyric line that says “keep it in mind when we say goodbye, cause you can’t get this stuff no more” I would not doubt DLR was forecasting that this VH rebirth might be short lived so enjoy what your getting….

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    1. Thanks for the comment Edward’s!

      I think Dave is very underrated as a lyric writer. His stuff is so cool, and often you have to read it over again to catch all his little winks and smiles.

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